Day 14: God is my portion

Thought for the Day: “His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ ” (Lamentations 3:22–24)

The term “portion control” took on a whole new meaning for me one day when I read the response that God’s people had after Moses led them out of slavery in Egypt. God had performed several sensational miracles to help them escape their captors. Yet they panicked when food became scarce. They even asked to go back to slavery in Egypt where food was supposedly abundant. But God planned to use their desire for food to teach them about daily dependence upon Him.

As Israelites traveled through the desert, each morning God would rain down exactly what they needed for nourishment — a provision called “manna,” which I imagine was something like little, sweet, potato flakes. They were to collect just enough manna for the day. They couldn’t gather extra, except before the Sabbath day of rest, or it would rot. This daily process was intended to put them in the habit of dependence on God, and only God.

However, the Israelites began to grumble and turned their hearts against God. So He took them on a detour. Instead of heading straight to the Promised Land of freedom, they wandered in the desert for forty years while they learned how to truly depend on God.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend the next forty years of my life learning this lesson. I want to stop grumbling about my weight and embrace this valuable lesson to walk in the freedom of God’s provision. As we apply this same process to our struggles, we can find that God is the perfect portion for everything we need, every longing we have, every desperate desire of our soul.

God is there when my husband and I have a big argument, my kids are unruly, a business deal doesn’t go as planned, or the bills start piling up. Instead of grabbing a tub of ice cream or ordering pizza, I ask God to be my daily portion in these tough times.

For example, if your boyfriend breaks up with you, instead of inhaling a big bowl of chips and dip, ask God to be your daily portion of companionship in this lonely time. “God, I hate this rejection and hurt. Sometimes I feel like the loneliness is going to swallow me alive. I can’t deal with this on my own. Will You be my portion of healing and companionship just for this day?”

Or, when your kids are driving you crazy, instead of chowing down three pieces of chocolate cake, you might pray, “God, I so desperately want to be a patient mom. I don’t know if I can be a patient mom the rest of my life. But with Your portion of strength I can rely on You in this moment and not try to medicate my shortcomings with food.”

Whatever your situation, ask God to be your daily portion of companionship, provision, and patience — over and over. Soon, you’ll find yourself walking in victory over those things instead of looking back over tears and a pile of cake crumbs.

Day 13: The tower of impossibility

Thought for the Day: “Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.” (Proverbs 24:14)

Standing before a decadent dessert table piled high like a tempting tower was a daunting task. I was glowing with the first flush of success with my healthy eating plan, but now I found myself at the blow-out wedding of the season. A mere wedding cake was not enough panache for this soiree. Instead, a full buffet of chocolate truffles accompanied the groom’s cake. It was beautiful. And I wanted one of each flavor!

Previously, when I faced the calorie-overload opportunities so common in our culture, I felt overwhelmed and defeated. The tower of truffles seemed like a tower of impossibility. But this time my perspective was different. I had experienced a shift and tasted a new style of hope.

The particular healthy-eating plan that I had chosen was full of wisdom about the realities of food’s interaction with my body. In addition, I had put some healthy boundaries in place, surrounded myself with a like-minded friend, and replaced old lies in my mind with new truths. This new foundation began to slowly build, one day at a time. Healthy choices piled on top of each other day after day. Then, one day I woke up for the first time feeling incredibly empowered. I still did the typical routine with the scale–no clothes and no ponytail holder. My body was slowly changing because I had lost some weight. But the most thrilling feeling was knowing that my heart was changing.

Hope over despair tasted better than any food I’d ever given up. I had sought God’s perspective using prayer, boundaries, and His fulfillment as my source. I realized nothing was worth compromising the path of victory I was on — not even the tower of truffles!

I paved my victory path by imagining every good choice I made was like settling another brick into place: bricks of prayer, wise choices, closeness to God, closeness to others, confidence, energy, and focus. Each and every time I conquered a temptation by making a healthy choice, I became stronger and stronger. And, brick by brick, prayer by prayer, good choice by good choice, my hope soared. I’m making positive physical changes, but even more importantly, I’m making wise spiritual changes. As Proverbs 24:14 reminds me, walking in spiritual wisdom secures my hope that this healthy journey will not end in defeat:

Know also that wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off.

As you face similar temptations, I can’t promise that there won’t be any more tears. There will be. And I can’t promise that sweets will no longer appeal to you. They may. I can’t even promise that the number on the scale will magically drop as quickly as you wish. It probably won’t. But gaining spiritual wisdom along the way will set your feet on a sure path of victory. Press on, my friend!

Day 12: But I never feel full

Thought for the Day: “I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge — that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17 – 19)

For years, I walked around with a little heart-shaped cup in my soul, holding it out to people or things trying to find fulfillment. Some of us hold out our heart-shaped cup and expect a husband to love us in ways that rights our wrongs and fills up our insecurities. Sometimes, we expect our kids to be successful so that we look good and feel validated by their accomplishments. Or, we hope that a successful career will confirm that we are a valuable human being.

At times, I have asked the impossible of all of these. But my consistent “friend” of choice over the years has been food. Imagine my little heart-shaped cup as a candy dish, using sweets and snacks to soothe my emotions.

However, if we are going to replace destructive cycles with lasting changes in our lives, then we have to empty ourselves of the lie that other people or things can ever fill our hearts. Instead, we have to deliberately fill up on God’s truths and stand secure in His love. Here are some examples of how we can do that:

Old lie: “I am such a failure when it comes to my diet.”
New truth: “I am not a failure. I am a lavishly loved child of God. Part of my right as a child of God is to operate in a power beyond myself. The Holy Spirit is God’s gift to me. So it is possible for me to use the self-control I’ve been given.”

Old lie: “I need these Oreos!”
New truth: “The thought that these Oreos will fill me is a lie. They will taste good for just the few minutes it will take to eat them. Then that hollow feeling of guilt will rush in as soon as the chocolate high dissipates. If I truly need a snack right now, I am capable of choosing a healthier option.”

Old lie: “God seems far away and French fries are right around the corner at the drive-thru.”
New truth: “French fries don’t love me. And the only lasting thing I get from them is the cholesterol and cellulite they inevitably leave behind, which will just compound my frustration. God’s love is here in this moment and in many more to come. His love is true and carries with it only positive residual effects.”

Examine how you can replace the lies and rationalizations in your mind with the truth of God’s love. Experience the power of renewing your mind and learning that food was never meant to fulfill the deepest places of your heart. And, as Ephesians 3:19 reminds, may you understand that the only way to true satisfaction is to be “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”

Day 11: It’s not fair!

Thought for the Day: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. . . . That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9 – 10)

A huge piece of delicious looking cake was delivered to our table. It was my favorite . . . it was our anniversary . . . and it was free! But I was at the beginning of my healthy eating adventure, which excluded sugary confections. So I graciously offered it to my husband. But inside a different dialogue was playing in my mind, “It’s not fair!”

I think this is one of the biggest tricks Satan plays to get us to give in to temptation. Saying “It’s not fair!” has caused many a girl to toss aside what she knows is right for the temporary thrill of whatever it is that does seem fair. We complain, “It’s not fair that I gain weight so easily when everyone else seems to eat whatever they want and stay trim.”

Now, realize that the dessert itself is not the problem. But if one piece of dessert leads to two and that leads to other compromises, which leads to wrecking our whole healthy eating plan, then the downward spiral reflects how temptation traps us in so many areas of life. I’ve experienced this vicious cycle myself, and I’m here to give you hope that it is possible to conquer it.

My pity party was a clue that I was relying on my own strength — a strength that has failed me before and will fail me again. So, when justifications swirl in my mind — “It’s a special day . . . with a special person . . . what’s the harm in sampling?” — I know I have to grab hold of God’s strength. The only way I’ve found to do that is to invite His power into the situation by mentally reciting truths such as, “I’m more than a conqueror,” “With God all things are possible,” or “Let the peace of God reign in your heart.”

This battle reminds me of the time I counseled a dating couple about setting boundaries in their physical relationship. They were looking forward to the best that marital sex had to offer, but struggled with maintaining purity in the face of immediate and temporary passion. They were tempted with the thought, “It’s not fair that we can’t have sex before we’re married when we’re so in love. Everyone else does.” My advice to them was to think beyond the moment, to say out loud, “This feels good now, but how will I feel about this in the morning? The truth is, compromising my commitments for the sake of physical pleasure is not God’s best for me.”

The same advice powerfully applies to our area of struggle. As we recite truth, God’s power can fill the gap of our weakness. I don’t know what you might be struggling with today, but I can assure you that God is just and fair. There is a good reason why we must face our temptations. The struggle to say “no” may be painful in the moment, but the process is working out something magnificent within us.

Day 10: But, exercise makes me want to cry

Thought for the Day: I fully realize that my body as a temple may not be God’s most grand dwelling. However, I want to lift up to the Lord my willingness to dedicate my exercise as a gift to Him and myself. This one act un-divides my heart and reminds me of the deeper purposes for moving my body.

Before I met my exercise-loving husband, I believed the only reason a person should sweat was if he or she were lying by the pool. But when I encountered Art, I temporarily changed my attitude. I was smitten. Oh, how I was motivated when I discovered that running was a fantastic way to spend more time with this man. However, on the first day of our honeymoon, when he woke up cheerfully and initiated an early-morning run, I thought, “Gracious, why would I want to do that? We’re married now.” And I didn’t run again for many years.

Sad, but true. Psalm 86:11 – 12 explains my quandary:

Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart . . . I will glorify your name forever.

An undivided heart. My heart was divided between exercising for another person’s reasons or finding my own motivation. I’ve found that when it comes to my body, which 1 Corinthians 6:19 calls “a temple of the Holy Spirit,” that I can’t live with divided loyalties. I can either be loyal to honoring the Lord, my husband, and my body, or be loyal to my cravings, desires, and excuses for not exercising.

An Old Testament story in Haggai struck me with the problem that a divided heart creates before God. The Israelites were charged to take care of God’s physical temple by rebuilding the actual structure. But just like most of us, they struggled with a heart divided by concerns about the everyday needs of their city and homes. And so God’s people neglected building the temple for ten years. Each year, something else seemed to be more important.

Likewise, I found that my struggle to exercise got delayed by other things that seemed to be higher priorities. How could I find the time between raising kids, running a home, paying the bills, watching TV, and chatting on the phone with friends?

Just as God promised the Israelites blessings for obedience, he warned them of consequences for not rebuilding the temple as He desired. And while we may not feel the effects of ignoring our health immediately, our choices will eventually catch up to us.

I finally admitted that I needed to make time, just like the Israelites, to care for my temple — my body. So I began exercising consistently with a friend and discovered many motivating blessings. While I can’t say I’m always eager to jump out of bed and start my day in a sweat, I’m always refreshed with the alertness that comes once I’ve started. In addition, my friend and I find time to process life, contemplate decisions, and talk about what God is teaching us. I love the feeling of accomplishment each day. Even if everything else in my day falls apart, I can smile and say, “Yes, but with the Lord’s help, I ran this morning.”

I fully realize that my temple may not be God’s most grand dwelling. However, I want to lift up my willingness to the Lord and dedicate my exercise as a gift to Him and myself. This one act un-divides my heart and reminds me of the deeper purposes for moving my body.

How might you start rebuilding your temple today? Maybe running is not your thing. No problem. I say the best exercise for you is the kind you’ll do.

Day 9: I could never give up that!

Thought for the Day: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22 – 23)

Self-control is hard. We don’t like to deny ourselves. We don’t think it’s necessary. We make excuses and declare, “That’s nice for someone else, but I could never give up ____________!” (fill in the blank: soda, sugar, cupcakes, smoking . . .)

If we’re relying on ourselves, that excuse may be true. But there’s another level to self-control that too few of us find. In Matthew 19:23 – 24, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven . . . it’s easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

In other words, Jesus was saying that it’s hard for people who are satisfied with the things of this world to deny themselves. It’s hard for someone who is rich with excess to deny herself and be humble enough to admit, “I must give this up.” When the disciples heard this teaching, they were confused until Jesus clarified; “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (verse 26).

Maybe you’ve heard verse 26 spoken in the common context that God can make us healthy, wealthy, and get us to a new breakthrough. We tend to think of it as saying, “With God, all good things are possible! With God, all lavish things are possible!” But if you study this verse in the original context, it actually means, “With man, it is impossible to deny yourself. With man, it is impossible to make sacrifices. With man, it is impossible to have self-control. But with God, all sacrificial things are possible. With God, all self-control is possible.”

I believe this one little shift in our thinking can make us feel empowered, instead of feeling denied. Rather than giving in to the foods we crave, we can have God’s self-control to make a completely different decision, such as a decision for health . . . a decision for renewed energy . . . a decision for confidence and peace. Most importantly, a decision that honors both our body and God!

Day 8: I’ll start again on Monday

Thought for the Day: “Give ear to my words, O Lord, consider my sighing. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you with expectation.” (Psalm 5:1 – 3)

“I’ll start again on Monday” are the ill-fated words that I’m certain have passed through every woman’s mind since the beginning of time. Whether it’s an excuse regarding our diet, exercise, temper, or devotional time, this phrase cycles through our lives on a regular basis. Or, is it just me?

For example, on a Saturday morning, I head down to my kitchen vowing to do better, eat healthier, and make good choices, only to have my resolve melt like the icing on the cinnamon rolls my daughter pulls from the oven. So I conclude the weekend is the worst time to begin eating healthier and tell myself, “I’ll start again on Monday.”

However, I find myself nagged by the subtle feeling of defeat, disappointment, and frustration. This crushing cycle of powerlessness that I’ve come to hate continues. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to wander around on a fruitless path unable to enter into the abundant life God has for me.

Today I challenge you to start a new cycle of making God your focus, rather than food. Each time you crave something you know isn’t part of your plan, use that craving as a prompting to pray. I crave a lot. So I’ve found myself praying a lot. Potato chips and brownies now prompt me to pray! God gave us the gift of prayer to turn our times of desperation into relationship opportunities with Him. This cycle is far more promising than distancing ourselves from His goodness with our own sense of self-loathing and defeat.

For example, when we make God our focus, we can wake up in the morning and say “God, I want a biscuit this morning. Instead, I’m eating poached eggs. I’m thankful for these eggs, but I’ll be honest in saying my cravings for other things are hard to resist. But instead of wallowing in what I can’t have, I’m making the choice to celebrate what I can have.”

What better way to live than fully in today rather than always looking to start over on Mondays!

Day 7: Finding my beautiful

Thought for the Day: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know a woman alive who is completely happy with her body. No woman I’ve met has ever said, “I eat healthy, I exercise, and I love the way I look 100 percent.” Not me, and I doubt you do either. Some perceived flaws are related to weight. But just as often, we find imperfections that exercise can’t cure, such as body shape, height, genetics, or signs of aging.

We tend to focus on what we see wrong with our bodies, including negative impressions and comments that stick with us from childhood. In middle school, weight wasn’t my biggest concern, but rather my ankles . . . yes, my ankles! A boy I liked once called them “tankles.” You bet that left a scar.

I will always have cellulite, stand 5’7 {dec63}, and have a low waistline. In the grand scheme of life, I know these are shallow concerns. But if I allow my brain to park in a place of dissatisfaction about my body, it gives Satan room to strip me of motivation by whispering, “Your body is never going to look the way you want it to look, so why sacrifice so much? Everyone eventually falls apart. Your discipline is in vain.” That’s why I have to seek the Lord’s perspective, such as the reminder in Psalms:

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name . . . and forget not all his benefits — who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1 – 5)

I’ve learned through God’s Word that the body He gave me is good. It’s not perfect, nor will it ever be on this side of eternity. But my body is a gift, a good gift for which I can be thankful. Being faithful in taking care of this gift and walking according to God’s plan gives me renewed strength to keep a healthy view of my body.

God didn’t curse my body with tankles and cellulite, and He has not cursed you. When I chose to view my body is as a good gift from God, I thanked Him for making me just the way I am. He revealed some benefits of my larger ankles, such as: I can hike with my husband, stand cheering for my kids at multiple sporting events, chase my dog through the yard, and never have a sprained ankle. Oh, what freedom! What redemption! What a sweet gift! I am able to look at those airbrushed, skinny-ankled women on TV or on the magazine covers and be happy for them without loathing myself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” I’ve found my beautiful. And I like my beautiful. I don’t have to hold my beautiful up to other people’s bodies with a critical eye of judgment. I pray that you see your beautiful today and enjoy the blessings of the body that God gave you.

Day 6: Friends don’t let friends eat before thinking

Thought for the Day: It’s possible to muster up the occasional gumption to avoid the slippery slope of compromising a diet. But more often than not, we need measures of accountability. For me, one of the most effective accountability measures has been mutually tracking progress with a friend.

I love the song by the Supremes that says, “Stop, in the name of love, before you break my heart. Think it over.” Who would have thought this classic tune could apply to so much more than a girlfriend warning her wayward beau? Contained within the melody is a powerful statement that applies to many areas of our life: Think it over. I wonder how many bad choices and severe consequences could have been averted if that three-word statement had been applied.

Sometimes we can muster up the gumption to think it over on our own and avoid the slippery slope of compromise. But more often than not, we need measures of accountability. For me, one of the most effective accountability measures has been mutually tracking progress with friends.

For instance, I have a friend who started eating healthy ahead of me, and she’s been an invaluable source of encouragement. She was the first to challenge me, “Lysa, if you do this healthy eating plan, it will work.” I clung to her statement when I had those really hard moments
of temptation.

My friend served as a voice of reason and stability, assuring me that my new lifestyle choices would be worth it and get easier. Plus, I hated the thought of having to admit that I hadn’t persevered when she asked. If she could press through her hard days, then so could I.

Another friend started a healthy eating plan along with me. We both knew it would be hard, so we committed to pray for one another as well as hold each other accountable. Each day, we talked about what we’d be eating. Every week, we reported our weight to one another. We processed each struggle and helped each other battle temptation.

While I cannot expect anyone else to make my decisions for me, it was motivating to know that someone else cared about my struggles. We encouraged each other with this motto, “If it’s not part of our plan, we don’t put it in our mouths.”

I never thought I could leave my old eating habits full of potatoes, white bread, pasta, rice, chips, brownies, and other sugary delights. I didn’t think I’d last a day. But watching my friend’s success and having my other friend willing to sacrifice with me gave my brain the permission to stop — in the name of love — and think it over.

Day 5: Desperation breeds defeat

Thought for the Day: “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted,
he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13)

I was walking through the airport when an incredible aroma suddenly grabbed my attention and taunted, “Do you know how happy I can make you?” A candy shop had just made a fresh batch of
nutty, caramel popcorn.

I felt my knees get weak, because I love caramel popcorn. I started to rationalize buying this special, thinking, “I can’t get this flavor at home, and I’ll take half home to my kids.” In that moment, a new truth God taught me during my healthy eating journey popped into my mind and saved the day: desperation breeds defeat.

In the book of Genesis, the Bible tells an interesting story about twin brothers who illustrate this point. The elder son, Esau, was favored by his father, Isaac, because of his prowess as a hunter. In contrast, the younger son, Jacob, was a quiet homebody. One day, Esau returned home from an unsuccessful hunting trip totally famished, and demanded some stew from his brother. “I’ll give you food,” agreed Jacob, “but first, trade me your birthright.” Esau replied, “Okay, I’m so
hungry, I’m about to die.” So Esau traded the honors due to him as the firstborn son for a simple meal of stew.

Upon first glance, it’s easy to ridicule Esau’s decision. I cannot imagine selling your whole birthright for a pot of soup. But I had to look at my own life and ask, “What great thing have I traded for so little in return? How often do I trade healthy food for junk food? What temporary pleasure have I craved so much that I gave up lasting victory?”

Desperation does indeed breed defeat. But God promises answers for desperate situations in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

The “way out” that God provides is the ability to decide in advance what I will and will not eat each day. I plan my meals right after breakfast when I’m feeling full and satisfied. The absolute worst time for me to decide what I’m going to eat is when I’ve waited until I’m depleted and feeling hungry. So I prepare a healthy snack to have on hand or keep in my purse.

When I’m unprepared or I’ve rushed through a proper meal, my stomach screams for something quick. And quick options usually come in a variety of unhealthy temptations, just as I experienced at the airport. However, that day I had decided ahead of time that I would keep an apple in my purse for a snack, rather than trade my healthy progress for something like caramel popcorn.

Let me be clear. I’m not saying that we should flee food. However, we must prevent the control that food can take over our lives. If we purposely begin to think before we eat, we’ll be better able to see the way out that God promises when we are tempted.

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